Deploying Applications

a-plus-forms - A+ forms. Would use again - Interview with Nikolay Nemshilov

A project built with webpack can be deployed to a variety of environments. A public project that doesn't rely on a backend can be pushed to GitHub Pages using the gh-pages package. Also, there are a variety of webpack plugins that can target other environments, such as S3.

Deploying with gh-pages#

gh-pages allows you to host stand-alone applications on GitHub Pages easily. It has to be pointed to a build directory first. It picks up the contents and pushes them to the gh-pages branch.

Despite its name, the package works with other services that support hosting from a Git repository as well. But given GitHub is so popular, it can be used to demonstrate the idea. In practice, you would likely have more complicated setup in place that would push the result to other service through a Continuous Integration system.

Setting Up gh-pages#

To get started, execute

npm install gh-pages --save-dev

You are also going to need a script in package.json:

package.json

"scripts": {
"deploy": "gh-pages -d build",
... },

To make the asset paths work on GitHub Pages, output.publicPath field has to be adjusted. Otherwise, the asset paths end up pointing at the root, and that doesn't work unless you are hosting behind a domain root (say survivejs.com) directly.

publicPath gives control over the resulting urls you see at index.html for instance. If you are hosting your assets on a CDN, this would be the place to tweak.

In this case, it's enough to set it to point the GitHub project as below:

webpack.config.js

const productionConfig = merge([
  {
    ...
    output: {
      ...
// Tweak this to match your GitHub project name publicPath: "/webpack-demo/",
}, }, ... ]);

After building (npm run build) and deploying (npm run deploy), you should have your application from the build/ directory hosted through GitHub Pages. You should find it at https://<name>.github.io/<project> assuming everything went fine.

If you need a more elaborate setup, use the Node API that gh-pages provides. The default command line tool it provides is enough for basic purposes, though.
GitHub Pages allows you to choose the branch where you deploy. It's possible to use the master branch even as it's enough for minimal sites that don't need bundling. You can also point below the ./docs directory within your master branch and maintain your site.

Archiving Old Versions#

gh-pages provides an add option for archival purposes. The idea goes as follows:

  1. Copy the old version of the site in a temporary directory and remove archive directory from it. You can name the archival directory as you want.
  2. Clean and build the project.
  3. Copy the old version below build/archive/
  4. Set up a script to call gh-pages through Node as below and capture possible errors in the callback:
ghpages.publish(path.join(__dirname, "build"), { add: true }, cb);

Deploying to Other Environments#

Even though you can push the problem of deployment outside of webpack, there are a couple of webpack specific utilities that come in handy:

To get access to the generated files and their paths, consider using assets-webpack-plugin. The path information allows you to integrate webpack with other environments while deploying.
To make sure clients relying on the older bundles still work after deploying a new version, do not remove the old files until they are old enough. You can perform a specific check on what to remove when deploying instead of removing every old asset.

Resolving output.publicPath Dynamically#

If you don't know publicPath beforehand, it's possible to resolve it based on the environment by following these steps:

  1. Set __webpack_public_path__ = window.myDynamicPublicPath; in the application entry point and resolve it as you see fit.
  2. Remove output.publicPath setting from your webpack configuration.
  3. If you are using ESLint, set it to ignore the global through globals.__webpack_public_path__: true.

When you compile, webpack picks up __webpack_public_path__ and rewrites it so that it points to webpack logic.

Conclusion#

Even though webpack isn't a deployment tool, you can find plugins for it.

To recap:

  • It's possible to handle the problem of deployment outside of webpack. You can achieve this in an npm script for example.
  • You can configure webpack's output.publicPath dynamically. This technique is valuable if you don't know it compile-time and want to decide it later. This is possible through the __webpack_public_path__ global.
Previous chapterTesting
Next chapterConsuming Packages

This book is available through Leanpub (digital), Amazon (paperback), and Kindle (digital). By purchasing the book you support the development of further content. A part of profit (~30%) goes to Tobias Koppers, the author of webpack.

Need help?